they knocked the door down, and entered the door, and by gunpoint forced the tax collector to collect their taxes. that's how important education was to african-americans in the late 19th century and continues to be so. .. presentation. copies of his books are are on sale at politics and prose tends and if you have questions after he is finished please use the microphone. john turner author of "brigham
young" pioneer prophet's assistant professor of religious studies at george mason university in fairfax virginia. he is author of bill bright a crusade for christ winner of christianity today's 2009 award for the best book in history and biography. he describes his writing is revolving around the place of religion in american history, subject rarely free of controversy and often full of color. in his first book he used the crusade as a lens through which to analyze evangelical efforts to restore american politics and education to the christian roots. his essays and reviews about religion in america have appeared in "the new york times," "wall street journal," "washington post" and "the los angeles times." this portrait of reagan young emphasizes young's early religious experiences and the transformative effect of joseph smith murder and an approach to leadership.
young's outsized family and his 30-year battle with u.s. government to control the utah territory. the book is appeared on many best of lists probably because while it is well researched almost scholarly biography it is so well-written and so enjoyable to read, it makes it very readable biography. maybe john will tell us how he was able to pull this off. please help me welcome john turner to the gaithersburg took festival. [applause] >> thank you. today i'm going to -- [inaudible] i will be loud. i will do my part. today i'm going to introduce you to a man who believed in a plurality of gods, a plurality of wives and a unity of power.
that was a very explosive combination in mid-19th century america. reagan young, a man who presided over the colonization of a thousand mile stretch of the american west whose spiritual fire builds up and saved a church, whose actions prompted the president to send one fifth of the u.s. army to utah and who married 55 women along the way. were it fiction his would be perfectly preposterous. i want you to first meet brigham young shortly after one of his greatest successes. in november of 1847 young bus about 46 years of age. he was at the time a strong barrel-chested man about my height, with a full head of the sandy red hair.
the previous summer young had led 150 mormon pioneers to the salt lake valley. he then returned to a weigh station on the missouri river. the next year he would leave thousands of his followers to their new zion in what became utah. in the meantime, young decided to reconstitute what the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints calls the first presidency. joseph smith, the founding profit and first president of the church had been murdered three years earlier. after joseph smith's death, the mormon people had chosen a group called the quorum of the 12 apostles to collectively leave the church and smith's absence. brigham young was president of
the 12. now, several years later, he wanted to streamline leadership and after his successful pioneer trek, he asked the other apostles to affirm him as the church's president. almost all of them opposed to young's idea. it would augment his authority at their expense. one apostle, a man named orson pratt explained that he thought of the apostles, the leaders of the church, as functioning more like the house of representatives. young accordingly should at like a speaker of the house, not like a president. that was orson pratt's idea. this was brigham young's response.
on congress. if only mitt romney had named made that his campaign slogan last year instead of believe in america we probably would have had our first mormon president. everybody could get behind that. brigham young used to say that he only swore when he was in the pulpit. that actually was not true. he swore at other times as well. i will try not to quote to generously from him today. back to the story. young insisted that he would make decisions for his church without any interference from other church leaders. it's a lot falls on a man to be kaine, izzy not kidding? i just will be perfectly untrammeled. he denigrated the apostles who opposed him and he insisted that
he stood in authority over them all. i am the mouthpiece he said to them, you are the belly. get in the harness or get out of the way. those were the only two options. the other apostles considered young's proposal for two weeks. they had a series of meetings about the church's leadership. then at a final meeting on the subject, young argued his point with intense spiritual fervor. he sang and he shouted in the power of the holy spirit. glory hallelujah he interjected into his speech. the other apostles could not resist the sheer force of brigham young's will and they got in line and affirmed him as the president, prophet and
revelator of their church. after the last contentious meeting, the group retired to a nearby cabin, saying the pioneer song and then drank a delightful strawberry wine. the pioneer song is probably now the most famous of mormon hymns. calm, come ye saints. it is with affirmation that all is well. that was brigham young approaching the height of his power. 1847. if you had met him back in 1830, when he was nearly 30 years old living outside of rochester new york you would never have predicted that he would have amounted to anything of note. he was a drifter in nearly every sense of the term, on the
economic and religious margins of american society. he grew up poor without the benefit of any formal education. his mother died when he was 14 and his father kicked him out of the home after he remarried. as a young man, brigham young moved from town to town nearly every year in search of some prosperity and stability. he never got ahead. young also grew up riderless in terms of religion. he spent some time as a young adult kind of dabbling with methodism and then in 1830 he came across the "book of mormon" after missionaries gave a copy to one of his brothers. young read it but he didn't know at first what to make of the gold bible as it was called. young was a deliberate man who didn't want to be pushed into anything and so he spent about
two years thinking about this new book, this new church, this new religion. then in 1832, he saw a group of mormon missionaries speaking in unknown spiritual tongues. for young, this was a clear display of god's power, a sign that the church of the new testament was being restored. along with most of his relatives, young was baptized and immediately he became a missionary for his new faith. brigham young was a fiercely independent man. he didn't want the other apostles to interfere with him once he became the church's leader. but he departed from that fierce independence when it came to the mormon prophet joseph smith. being smith's disciple meant following the prophet into all
sorts of -- just as smith taught his followers to gather together, to live in a community with each other but when the latter day saints flooded into a new area, they always generated opposition from nonmormons. in 1830, young had to flee from ohio where he had moved to follow smith to missouri. two years later he had to flee from missouri to illinois. during these years, as the church experienced what was almost crisis after crisis, most mormons, at least questioned joseph smith's leadership and many rejected him. brigham young never dead and smith rewarded that loyalty by drawing young into his inner circle.
by 1839, young had become president of his church's quorum of the 12 apostles, a group mostly tasked with overseeing missionary service and the growth of the church in various places around the united states. after the church's expulsion from missouri, brigham young let the other apostles on a missionary trip to england. and i want to spend just a few minutes on his experiences there, because they illustrate the spirituality and his early approach to leadership. as of late may 1840, young had been in england for about six weeks. there have been scores, even hundreds of converts both in the countryside and in the english city of manchester. one night while visiting with a
local family, young and a good friend of his son some and afterwards spoke with each other in tongues. this is a quote from brigham young's on diary. songs, and afterwards spake with each other in tongues. since his conversion brigham young had frequently spoken in tongues but he was disappointed at this moment because the converts to the church in manchester had not yet received that spiritual gift. and the previous sunday had been pentecost or what the english called whitsun time. pentecost is the annual christian commemoration of the holy spirit coming down like chunks of fire on top of the heads of the disciples in jerusalem, enabling people in the crowd to hear the disciples
in their own languages. it happens to be tomorrow so i thought it would give good idea to bring this up today. the mormons and manchester right after which sometime were wondering if they could also experience this spiritual power. they wanted something good. young noted in his diary and so a few days later young organized a meeting of church members in manchester. we told them he wrote, to ask for the blessings of the lord and get the gifts and then, after a time of prayer and expectation he wrote, almost got the gift of tongues. did you hear that? brother green almost got the gift of tongues. i find that very curious. what does that mean?
how could one almost speak in spiritual tongues? the gift was so to speak on the tip of his tongue or he was spiritually tongue-tied, i don't know. and then as if to illustrate the practice, brigham young stood up and spoke in tongues himself and then by fits and starts over the weekend the church members in manchester experienced this gift for themselves. early saturday morning a woman named elizabeth crooks began speaking and singing in tongues as she slept. by sunday, brigham young wrote there was plenty to rise up in the name of the lord and speak with other tongues and prophesy in the name of jesus. most people if they have any image of brigham young probably don't think of him as a pentecostal revivalist but during his first 10 years as a
latter-day saints, he healed the sick, spoke in tongues and encouraged others to practice such gifts. it was a time of spiritual fire. young by the way not only spoke in tongues, he also sang in unknown tongues. early latter day saints sometimes refer to this as singing songs of zion. in 1836, young sang in tongues at the dedication of a mormon temple in eastern ohio, first temple dedicated by joseph smith and his church. i find that fascinating, the idea that people saying in spiritual tongues. i would publicly pay the cost of the "book of mormon" musical ticket in order to get to hear brigham young saying in tongues. that would be quite something. so here is brigham young as in 1840, a man full of spiritual
fire and ecstasy who spoke in tongues, delivered sermons that even skeptical english audiences had a hard time ignoring. he was a man with hardly any education, with terrible handwriting, who nevertheless kept a diary and drafted long letters to fellow missionaries across england. but he was also at that time a very collegial leader, who massaged the egos of his fellow apostles and turned their respect. he worked with men whose literary talents far exceeded his own and he got along well with apostles whose evangelistic successes outpaced his. there is no sense that he was threatened by the potential rivals. in short, brigham young at the age of 40 was a man easy to
admire and enjoy. and so, how do we get from that young, when some brigham young to the man who browbeat his fellow apostles into affirming his leadership seven years later? the next several years are the crux of the story, really the full prong of brigham young's life. young returned from england to the city of nauvoo in illinois which became the church's new place of gathering. here joseph smith began teaching young the new doctrines and rituals that would make mormonism much more than another idiosyncratic protestant church. smith, toward the end of his life, taught that god who sits enthroned in heaven is a man
like unto yourselves. god was an exalted human being and righteous men. 's to be. as he was, so are we now. young explained pithily a few years later. as he is now, so we shall become. in particular, young cherished the belief that man and god continually and eternally progress in knowledge, light and intelligence. he also absorbed from joseph smith what latter-day saints latter day saints came to call the plan of salvation, that all people exist as spirits in the pre-mortal presence of the heavenly father and then come to earth in bodily form. after experiencing both the joys of creation and the trials of
earthly existence, nearly all enjoy some level of heavenly glory. and however only those righteous men and women who passed through the church's sacred ordinances would reign in celestial glory as kings and queens, as priests and priestesses unto god. they formed kingdoms on earth that would persist for an eternity. for some, including brigham young those kingdoms would be large indeed. smith revealed to young his belief that righteous men had the privilege and duty of taking additional wives. young had one wife at that the time, mary and code angel. when joseph smith first taught beyond the doctrine of plural marriage he hesitated. he knew that it would change,
possibly destroy his marriage and i'm sure he knew that it also imperiled the church but once brigham young committed to something he pursued it wholeheartedly. so it was with his conversion to mormonism and so it was with polygamy. once he was in, he was all in. he married, was sealed to four additional wives over the next few years and then another 35 or so before leaving illinois for the west. youngs wives who ranged in age from 15 to 65. in 1872, he was sealed to his 55th and final wife. the introduction of plural marriage was one factor that led to joseph smith's demise. polygamy not surprisingly
kindled a great amount of dissent within the church and a group of mormon dissidents began publishing a newspaper critical of smith's behavior. smith ordered the destruction of the dissenters printing press for which he was arrested. an anti-mormon mob then stormed his jail cell and fatally shot him. smith murder was the turning point in brigham young's life. if young was anything in this world it was a devoted follower of joseph smith. he was deeply traumatized by smith death and from that point forward, young resolved to do everything in his power to protect himself and the church from the offense and forces that had led to smith's death. he concluded that dissent within the church opposed posed a mortal threat to his leader and
he concluded that mormons could no longer tolerate living under the political authority of nonmormons. so after that point, young becomes a very different man, more fearful, corser, very concerned about preserving his own safety. so within a few years you see a man who is concerned that he establishes the sole power within the church. joseph smith once described himself as a rough stone rolling down a hill. brigham young was more like a jagged older, crashing into his opponents and bruising a few friends along the way. still, latter day saints to this day revere him for good reason. he stabilized and perhaps saved
his church after joseph smith death. he preserved the rituals introduced by smith that still distinguish his church. he established a sanctuary for tens of thousands of despised and ursa kidded religious refugees. by the time of his death there were a are around 100,000 mormons living in the utah territory. like his church, he emerged from the obscure backwaters of the american frontier. young was in an a noneducated craftsman who became a millionaire businessman, the governor of the u.s. territory and the second prophet of the largest new religion to take root in american soil. i am going to stop there. there is much more in the book. i would love it if you felt like asking some questions.
if you have a question, please use the microphone in the back so that everyone including anyone watching on c-span can hear you. >> hi. i was wondering who exactly or what religious refugees that he welcomed? >> sure. by that i mean the mormon people. after joseph smith's death anti-mormon mobs forced the mormons to abandon their community and ella. really the pain of death. mormon settlements were burned and it came to almost open warfare between mormons and nonmormons and brigham young agree to leave. >> i was in a mormon house watching on tv the waco con -- conflagration and because i respected my landlady i didn't
say how is this any different than david koresh and the branch davidian, how is this any different from what joseph smith did 100 years ago successfully. so my question is, could this happen again or would it be to totally impossible because of all the social structure and the fact there are no territories in the west? >> i don't think you could replicate the 19th century mormon experience. brigham young by the way had a sense of humor so that was one difference. i would say also brigham young didn't lead his people into disaster. david koresh ultimately wasn't concerned about the welfare of his people whereas brigham young didn't want to provoke a war that would wipe his people out. so i don't think it could happen again. >> knew the secret rituals of the mormon temple ceremony are
almost identical to the secret rituals of the -- did you find in a background for how that happened or why that happened? >> smith self-consciously and he talked about this, used freemasonry as one of his sources for the endowment ceremony that he developed in the early 1840s. i think he was someone who was comfortable taking what he considered truth or good doctrine from any source, and so he wasn't ashamed to have found some of that in freemasonry. there were some important differences though. for instance freemasonry was a male order. so he adapted the ceremony and changed it in important ways as
well. >> how accessible did you find all the material that you researched? >> i had a great time because i was able to gain access to the entirety of the brigham young papers held by the church in salt lake city so just to reams of letters, diaries and minutes of church meetings and transcripts of sermons. i was able in the general sense to get about 98% of the collections i wanted which was wonderful so i experienced a high level of availability. >> good morning. you indicated brigham young was perhaps uneasy about the polygamy decision to adopt polygamy and of course now the mormon church has officially abandoned that to get along with u.s. government. do you think brigham young had he been alive when the issue came to a head would he have agreed to back off of his doctrine or would he have fought
it tooth and nail? >> did fight it tooth and nail during his lifetime. the u.s. government was already putting pressure on brigham young as a church. i think if bush had come to shove he would have also been willing to abandon it in order to preserve the church. he didn't think he needed to until he died in 1877. so he did, he did very much support it. i think ultimately he liked the church later did would have sought to preserve the doctrine of celestial and eternal marriage and divorce from polygamy. thank you for your questions and for being >> you're watching book tv, nonfiction authors and books every weekend on c-span2.
>> up next on book tv, a panel discussion on the creation of the sixth floor museum housed in the former texas school book depository which remembers the life, presidential tenure, and assassination of president john f. kennedy. this is the hour. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much for being here today. this is truly remarkable audience. i have been with the museum for 13 years, and i cannot think of another vendor programmer we have an audience carnallite this . there are far too many people the require recognition for me to catch everyone's name. please forgive me. i want to point out some of our special guests. they're retired police detective who was handcuffed to lee harvey oswald of the time it was shot. [applause]